Pets Need Probiotics, Too!
We share a lot of things with our beloved pets: our homes, our emotions, and sometimes our food. And we share many similarities, too, in the way that our minds and bodies function. One of them is the need for probiotics.
While probiotic bacteria, whether from food or from supplements, has been a part of daily life for humans for a long time, the idea of supplemental microbes for canines is somewhat more recent. If it’s something you’re considering for your best friend, there are a lot of good reasons to give them a try.
I think that one of the most common reasons that people turn to probiotics for themselves, and for their pets, is because of stomach and digestion issues. Perhaps your pup has had a tough time with runny poop or with constipation. Or, maybe the occasions of gassiness in your home really is because “the dog did it.”
Whatever the initial cause, probiotics can have incredible benefits for your pet.
Veterinary studies have shown that probiotics can calm symptoms of intestinal bowel diseases, including diarrhea, occurrences of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) from food-borne pathogens, or nutrient deficiencies. By correcting imbalances of bacteria, getting rid of the “bad bugs” that can infiltrate your dog’s digestive system, you can also reduce the inflammation and potential gut damage that comes about with stomach and intestinal disorders, too. In other words, daily probiotic supplementation can address the long-term issues by making daily digestion more efficient and productive. After all, if your best friend is truly absorbing the nutrients they need, they are less likely to suffer from the roller coaster symptoms of upset stomachs and bowels.
For example, one study found that probiotics cut the recovery time for canines with gastroenteritis almost by half.
Another reported that all digestive symptoms improved in dogs given a blend of probiotics. That’s most likely because the treatment reduced levels of inflammation in the gut and essentially drove down levels of harmful bacteria.
For anyone with a best friend that deals with ongoing dietary sensitivities that can’t quite be pinned down to a specific cause, probiotics are an excellent natural intervention. A veterinary study with German Shorthair Pointers found that adding a probiotic to their regimen improved the frequency, consistency, and overall makeup of their poop. For anyone who has struggled with their dog having things be a bit too runny for no apparent cause, this is welcome news. Plus, the probiotic treatment decreased numbers of harmful bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) in their digestive systems, too.
Overall, probiotics can do great things for dogs with IBD. These beneficial bacteria can inhibit intestinal permeability (leaky gut), reduce inflammatory markers, and boost levels of T-helper cells to stop IBD symptoms and causes. And while probiotics can be used alongside standard steroid therapies like prednisone, they don’t have to be in order to be effective.
Skin health is intensively tied into our nutritional states, regardless of whether you are human or canine. In our dogs, dermatitis and other skin and coat irritations are often a sign of nutrient or bacterial imbalances.
High levels of harmful gut bacteria, combined with a lack of nutrient absorption due to low probiotic levels and the digestive issues and stress that accompany them, are major potential causes of what would otherwise seem like surface issues. In fact, probiotic supplementation may help reduce allergic symptoms and rashes because your dog will be getting a more complete spectrum of nutrients in his or her diet.
Additionally, the digestive tract is tied to the immune system in dogs as much as it is in people, and that includes when the immune system overreacts in unhelpful ways, as is the case with allergies. If your best friend suffers from allergies, probiotics can help. And the earlier you get them started on a regimen, the better.
For example, in one study, puppies who suffered from atopic dermatitis due to allergens, were provided with probiotics in their first six months, which appeared to correct the problem. But what was even more interesting to the researchers, and to me, is that this positive effect lasted even three years after the probiotics were discontinued!
So along with omega-3s and hemp, I think that probiotics are a must if your best friend suffers from a dry, itchy coat, or skin problems of any kind.
Reduce Stress and Improve Behavior
Irritation of any kind can create a multitude of behavioral problems in dogs, which is not that surprising. After all, if your dog is dealing with digestive issues like IBD, or allergic reactions on their skin, they’re already likely to be more prone to acting out because they’re stressed.
And sometimes the lack of helpful bacteria in the gut can itself be an indicator or cause of that stress. One veterinary study found that certain types of bacteria were associated with aggressive dogs along with higher levels of cortisol, the “fight or flight” stress hormone, and lower levels of calming serotonin. Aside from the potential for creating problems with digestion or other stress-inducing conditions, the gut-brain axis alone can account for the relationship between bacteria and behavior. As changes in the digestive tract occur, the signals sent from the gut may trigger the release of cortisol and cause other factors that lead to fear, anxiety, and destructiveness.
Keep Healthy Weight
Even with a diet of high quality food and in the right portion sizes, many canines still can have a weight problem. While probiotics aren’t the only factor in keeping your best friend in the best shape, there is a relationship between gut bacteria and metabolism.
Aside from dietary carbs that affect dogs the same way that they can affect people, beneficial bacteria are often harmed by the use of antibiotics. In fact, antibiotics can shift the bacteria in the digestive tract to unhelpful types that are found in higher levels in obese dogs, so a daily probiotic– along with diet and exercise–may help keep the extra pounds from adding up. While there are times when antibiotics are necessary, a probiotic can help minimize any adverse effects associated with their use.
Daily Probiotics for Your Best Friend
Probiotics are a smart supplement. They are an easy addition to your dog’s daily regimen, and can address current issues or prevent them from occurring in the future. As research continues on the connections between probiotics and their potential for your beloved best friend, I think they will become the first choice for vibrant health.
To support your best friend’s digestive health, I recommend using a combination of microorganisms totaling 2.5 billion CFU containing Bifidobacterium animalis and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
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